Dads wake was aaaamazing.
What? Not the usual word you hear attributed to a wake? Well, I struggle for a better one.
The immediate family gathered at the funeral home an hour or so early. Immediate family is close to 20 people so we filled the room pretty well.
We were sitting there, fidgeting, waiting for guests to arrive. Neat, well dressed, acting proper and seated in perfectly aligned rows when my brother in law loudly announces “I 17” (as if calling out a bingo number) and we all cracked up laughing. Thus began three hours of good friends, good family and much laughter. My best friend from elementary school showed up along with another friend. A best friend from high school also attended. Old neighbors, their now grown children and many coworkers of my dads.
All of them brought wonderful stories of my dad, his polish music, his cantankerous personality, his silly pranks. We shared many laughs up until the time the funeral director came in and yelled “FOLKS! PLEASE QUIET DOWN. We will now begin the prayer service”.
Father Lynch (yes, THIS Father Lynch), said a few prayers and asked the attendees to yell out traits of my dad. We heard cantankerous, patriotic, respectful, old fashioned and more. As a person that does not practice, believe or support organized religion of any sort, I must admit I struggled with the prayers and blessings and signing of the cross. Most times I kept quiet and did not participate. It felt so hypocritical to me. I am not a believer and pretending to me felt like an insult to those who were (the jury was out on my Dads beliefs up until his dying day. His receiving of last rites and the funeral mass was done for my mother.)
The funeral mass was held yesterday. For me this brought more religious turmoil. As Father Lynch prepared for communion something inside me turned. By the laws of the Catholic Church, I could receive communion. I have received all my sacraments. Yet I don’t believe in any of it. I sat there, sickened over my own beliefs, with my fathers casket next to me and pondered. Would I offend my mother if I did not receive? Would it have bothered my father? What would it look like if my entire family – sans me – went up to the altar? And holy crow, what about my sons? Dads funeral mass was their first time EVER in a Catholic Church. What would they do? What should I do with them?
As these thoughts and more ran through my mind, I heard Father Lynch state “if for some reason you cannot accept communion, you are welcome to come to the altar for a blessing. Simply cross your arms over your chest like so and I will know blessing versus communion. I breathed a sigh of relief and still felt conflicted. It helped to know I had an option, but what option should I choose?
I reflected on Last Rites from a few days ago. Father Lynch, known to be quite verbose nearly made them into my Last Rites as well. He went on and on. All the while, I have to urinate. I am crossing my legs, standing in respect, trying not to think of waterfalls when Father stands to anoint all of the family with oil. Sign of the cross on my forehead. I cringed but again, respected the values of others. As soon as Father had concluded, I quickly left the room to visit the bathroom. When I returned, Father had left the house. I commented that I had to pee the entire time and my sister jokes “I figured you ran to rub the oil off your forehead. Did it burn you?”
I was only mildly amused. I was attempting to be respectful and instead of it being noted, I am mocked for my beliefs.
What would happen if I received communion? What would happen if I did not?
(I did. There was no lightning strike, no earthquake, no hand of God reaching down to backhand me and make me spit out out).
As I walked back into the pew, I was stopped by my fiance (also Catholic) who inquired what I wanted to do with my sons. I explained to my sons that they could go up if they wished and showed them how to cross their hands over their chest. I also told them they could stay seated. (they stayed seated).
As the service ended, Father Lynch came to the first pew, the family pew, and shook our hands and gave hugs to us all. He leaned into my ear and said “LOVE THE HAIR COLOR!”. I chuckled (see photo above for latest color).